Posted on Aug 1, 2000

Since the walls of Chris Jones office are covered with photographs, and since he has taught such courses as scientific and technical photography, it should come as no surprise that “photography” is one of the answers when he is asked what he plans to do in retirement.

Not that it's the only answer — he also looks forward to gardening, reading, cooking, traveling, and sharing time with children and grandchildren. But photography, a hobby that has dovetailed with aspects of his career at Union, will continue to be a big interest.

Jones arrived at Union in 1967 with “two kids in the back seat, smoke coming out of the car, and two quarters to rub together.” Soon afterwards he was teaching an unusual general education course in photography, Using a variety of methods, from x-ray diffraction to lasers and even a simple pinhole camera, he and his students produced abstract images of endless variety.

Jones was a natural to teach the Physics Department's course in optics, and he developed experiments in Fourier transform spectroscopy and Fresnel diffraction. He has also contributed diffraction and interference photographs to a number of textbooks.

“I'm an experimentalist,” he says. “I like to work with equipment and do labs; I like to find out how things work.”

Indeed, over the years he developed a number of advanced laboratory exercises for the department — elastic scattering, channeling, proton induced X-ray emission, Rutherford backscattering, Laue diffraction of X-rays, gamma-p reaction studies, and the statistics of nuclear counting.

He has also been active in what he calls the “almost continuous effort” to redesign and rediscover effective teaching apparatus for students in elementary courses.

Jones grew up in northern New Jersey, where his father was an administrator at Drew University. He attended Hobart College, earned his master's at John Hopkins, and returned to Hobart for two years as an instructor in physics. “That's what convinced me that college teaching was what I wanted to do,” he says.

He came to Union right after earning his Ph.D. at Iowa State University, and thirty-three years later he says he still doesn't have a “formula” for teaching.

“Teaching is a matter of chemistry,” he says. “Like most teachers, there are days when I think I'm doing marvelously well, and then there are days when nothing seems to get going. It really depends on the mix of students and professor.”

Jones will continue to teach a junior lab course, and he will continue his long-time interest in maintaining physics labs. “It's been great here,” he says. “Most of the time I've liked most of what I'm doing, and how many can say that?”